Woman hit by train after police locked her on tracks pleads no contest

The Colorado woman who was hit by a train after officers locked her in the back of a police SUV that was parked on railroad tracks in Weld County pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge Friday after prosecutors dropped a felony charge against her.

Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 21, will avoid jail time if she follows the conditions of her deferred sentence and completes 10 hours of community service, according to court records.

Rios-Gonzalez was stopped by Fort Lupton and Platteville police officers on Sept. 16 after a 911 caller told dispatchers she’d flashed a gun at him during a road rage incident. Officers took Rios-Gonzalez into custody and then locked her in the back of a police SUV that was parked on the tracks near U.S. 85 and Weld County Road 38.

The officers then failed to move the SUV or help Rios-Gonzalez as a train bore down on the vehicle, horn blaring, and as Rios-Gonzalez screamed for help. The train hit the SUV with her inside, and she suffered significant injuries including a brain injury, broken ribs, broken wrists, a punctured lung, a broken leg and amnesia.

Rios-Gonzalez was charged with felony menacing in connection with the road rage incident. But prosecutors on Friday dropped the felony charge and replaced it with a misdemeanor menacing charge, to which Rios-Gonzalez pleaded no contest.

A no-contest plea means that she admits prosecutors likely could prove the menacing charge in a jury trial, but allows her to avoid admitting guilt. It is treated much the same as a guilty plea.

Her sentence will be deferred as part of the plea agreement, court records show. Rios-Gonzalez’s attorney, Chris Ponce, did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

He previously argued that the case against Rios-Gonzalez should be dropped because she could not remember the events leading up to the train crash.

Two of the officers who were involved in locking Rios-Gonzalez on the train tracks were also criminally charged. Fort Lupton Officer Jordan Steinke is facing charges of attempted reckless manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault. Then-Platteville police Sgt. Pablo Vazquez is charged with reckless endangerment, careless driving and obstruction of a highway.

Both cases are still pending. Rios-Gonzalez also has a pending lawsuit against the police departments.

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